By the time I was nineteen, David and Leanne had both gone off to university. The next fall, I was to enroll at Texas A&M University for Criminal Justice. For four years, I had the run of the house, along with the undivided scrutiny of my father.
I was at the Town and Country Food Market, Academy’s premier grocery store, which sat on the town’s only four-way stop. Searching the shelves of nondescript cans, I ran into Lyle Christen. He was certainly not overweight anymore, and he didn’t look happy to see me.
I made a few awkward noises indicating that it was nice to run into him, but that I was just about done anyway. I shuffled along to the sole checkout counter, where there was an unusually long line of three people. He walked right over behind me, holding nothing.
“I’ve never forgiven you for what you did,” he said.
I turned slightly back towards, and it occurred to me that in ten years I’d never apologized either. I began to say, “Look, I don’t want—”
I was cut off by an explosive fire where his fist had just met my kidney. My chest suddenly grew hotter than I’d ever felt it, so that it seemed my lungs would explode and engulf him in flame. Blindly, I dropped the groceries, whirled around, and decked Lyle Christen.
He looked as surprised as I’d been that day almost ten years ago, but he was much quicker to recover and wallop me again in the stomach. It turned into an all-out brawl, and we continued until the deputy came to pick us up for disorderly conduct. In those bloody minutes, the fire spread to my limbs and neck, white hot—and my rage gradually turned to terror. The fight became much more about trying to quench that fire than it was about getting revenge on Lyle. So I became the second in eight generations to cross the law.